So first things first let’s look at the recommended specifications described by Microsoft themselves for Home Premium/Business/Ultimate:
* 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
* 1 GB of system memory
* 40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
* Support for DirectX 9 graphics with:
o WDDM Driver
o 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum)
o Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware
o 32 bits per pixel
* DVD-ROM drive
* Audio Output
* Internet access (fees may apply)
This seems pretty reasonable to me, but if I were to change this slightly the system memory/RAM should be at least 1.5GB.
Ok, so do you have that? Sorry to be patronising, but how many non-geeks know what graphics card they have? So go to Start -> Run and enter ‘dxdiag’ (DirectX Diagnostic Tool) and hit enter. A window should pop up giving you all of you computer hardware details (except hard drive capacity).
So now we have two possible outcomes from this extensive research, you either don’t have the recommended specifications or you do have the recommended specifications.
I don’t have the recommended specifications:
– My graphics memory is less than 128MB, if you are just looking for a graphics card to run Vista well then you can probably pick one up for less than £50, either a 128MB or 256MB one. However there are now graphics cards which support DirectX 10 and take full advantage of its features, but you will probably be spending in the hundreds for this sort of thing.
-I had less than 1GB of RAM, I myself have ran Vista on 512MB of RAM and its not a nice experience, however after putting in 1GBs more of memory to give me a grand total of 1.5GB of memory it now runs like a dream. The easiest way to find out how much RAM you have, which type and what you can upgrade to is to visit crucial.com/uk. If your PC only supports a maximum of 1GB of RAM there is always ReadyBoost (Which I will expand upon later).
Ok, so here we get to what Vista has, what Vista offers and if it is worth buying.
Who are you?
Let’s start simple:
I’ll split PC users up into four categories and we can see what category you fit into and whether or not you need Vista.
Category 1: I am uninterested in computers, I use a PC to surf the web and buy online.
Category 2: I use a PC regularly for work; I am currently using a PC mostly for checking emails.
Category 3: I love to play games, visit YouTube, check emails, use Office for work, make DVDs, edit videos and create images using Photoshop etc. I am a computer enthusiast always looking for new and exciting things.
Category 4: I use XP and think its great, but I love the look of Vista but can’t be bothered to change to Vista as I am settled in for now.
Category 5: I have followed Vista through Beta 1, Beta 2, RC 1 and RC2. I am currently using RTM.
Are you Category 1?
Stick with XP for now; either wait till you buy a new PC, or wait till XP just looses all support and updates.
Are you Category 2?
Well, if you have enough cash or your company supplies Outlook 2007 then I would certainly recommend a switch to either Vista Business or Ultimate. Outlook 2007 seamlessly integrates into Vista and is much more stable and functional then previous Outlooks.
Are you Category 3?
I would recommend here that you Partition your hard drive so that you can either boot into Vista or XP on start-up. This way you can play all of you games and software that aren’t yet supported by Vista on XP and then switch over to Vista for all of your surfing, DVD making, video editing and creative arts.
Are you Category 4?
Well, if you are happy with XP, but just love the look of Vista then I recommend downloading Vista Transformation Pack, this 30MB download from such sites as Download.com, this basically replaces system files on your Windows XP machine to look, feel and sound like Vista. But this is certainly not Vista; it’s XP wearing a dashing new suit.
Are you Category 5?
Well, like me you have been keen to try out every new release of Vista since it started as Codename Longhorn. To be honest, if you are that interested, and have that technical know-how then you can probably decide for yourself whether or not to make the switch to the retail. Sorry.
So that’s over, let’s get onto more pressing issues.
Appearance and Flip 3D
You may have seen the adverts and heard from your friends something minimally named the ‘Wow’ factor. This is Flip 3D and Aero. Aero is the translucent skin seamlessly integrated into Windows Vista. Aero really is remarkable, having used Vista for several months I can truthfully say I haven’t got irritated or fed up of it. However that may be because I am using a 20″ screen, meaning a very large resolution. When using a much smaller resolution I find the whole thing a bit too claustrophobic. That’s why in my personal opinion you shouldn’t use Vista on anything smaller than a resolution of 1024×768. I’m digressing, so aero is impressive. Unlike XP it is also a lot more customizable, XP offered Luna in Blue, Silver or Grey; on the other hand Vista lets you choose from a multitude of colours and what level of transparency you wish to use.
Don’t forget Flip 3D, this is the effect you get when you press WIN + Tab; immediately your windows fly into the centre of the screen allowing you to flick through in 3D style. Although extremely cool, not quite as useful as Mac’s Exposé.
File Navigation and Search
Using the Start Menu you can instantly access any of your documents instantly by typing in the documents name or any text you may think is inside the document. Vista constantly indexes all of your files so that they are stored in a database for instant access when searched for. This really is a useful feature and again is seamlessly incorporated into Vista.
Also Vista has a built in undelete system, basically a system which constantly backs up your documents, so if you save over your important document you can quickly get it back.
Get ready gamers for the next generation of gaming. DirectX 10 will not be released for XP, so if you want the latest DirectX 10 only games then you may have to switch. After watching one of Microsoft’s Key Note Speech things, there will apparently be software for Vista enabling the user to play simple games against their Xbox 360 friends. Interesting concept, who knows how good it will be?
This is a new ‘Windows Vista Ultimate Extra’; these are little programs that will only be available to Ultimate customers. DreamScene is essentially a video background. So instead of having a picture of a water fall you can actually have a video of a waterfall as your background. Although very nice, it’s pretty pointless if I am honest. Bit of a waste of resources if you ask me.
Windows DVD Maker
This is a bit of software that enables you to create extremely professional DVDs. However in my experience, tested on two machines it’s awfully unstable. It often crashes, aspect-ratio is hard to get right, it is quite slow; but when id does work you are left with an incredibly professional DVD.
Windows Defender also available for XP really is the second line of defence I find, it works very well and is a brilliant Microsoft product. The first line of defence is obviously Windows Firewall and an Antivirus of your choice. I personally use NOD32 as my antivirus as it uses very little resources but is an excellent anti-virus. Don’t go down the commercial route with McAfee or Norton! The built in Firewall is a large improvement on Windows XP Service Pack 2 firewall; it secures both way connections instead of one-way.
Internet Explorer 7
Although IE7 looks great in Vista I personally prefer to use Mozilla Firefox as my primary browser. However Firefox doesn’t look great in Vista. I did by some very small amount improve this issue by creating a theme called, ‘Firefox Default for Vista’ which removes the sickly blue from Firefox’s interface. You can get this by just typing in into the Firefox add-ons directory or it is usually in the top 10 Firefox themes.
So, you have seen the embarrassing videos on the news and YouTube of Vista’s speech recognition messing up. Actually this speech recognition does seem to work. However, making mistakes when dictating can be frustrating, but for navigating around the PC it works seamlessly and is a lot of fun to play with.
Windows Photo Gallery
This is the Picasso like system built into Vista. It is very nice, you can tag your images and rate them, so that they are appropriately organised in Photo Gallery. This means finding images can be a lot quicker.
Windows Media Player 11
Personally I don’t use Windows Media Player, as I use iTunes for music and VLC Media player for videos; however it is a very nice piece of eye candy and a very functional application; although the fact that you can’t download Podcasts through it is really a limiting factor.
This is a Vista Ultimate only feature that lets you secure your laptop computer to a ridiculously high degree. It’s an odd feature; the target for this sort of market is very narrow. Unless you work as a secret agent for MI5 then there really isn’t a need for it.
This is a feature unique to Vista that allows you to use a speedy memory pen as RAM. In short, you system uses your hard drive as virtual memory when you’re running low on RAM, with ReadyBoost you are using a memory pen which is much faster then your hard drive as virtual memory. This dramatically improves performance with systems that have low memory. Before I upgraded to 1.5GB of RAM, I only had 512MB. By using ReadyBoost performance was dramatically improved. Remember only a selection of USB flash disk’s are compatible with ReadyBoost.
Windows Update has also been significantly improved, instead of using Internet Explorer; it runs as its own program, making the whole process quicker and easier.
Apple recently released some iTunes updates; these actually fix any previous compatibility issues, so you should have no problem with iTunes if you use it.
Photoshop and the like
I use Photoshop CS2 on Vista and it works fine, but there are a few minor issues. However you can download Photoshop CS3 beta which fully supports Vista. And if you are a big fan you will know that Adobe Creative Suite CS3 will be released mid July. This will also include the newly acquired Dreamweaver and Flash, recently bought from Macromedia. This will make Apple users think twice before claiming that Mac’s are better for Video, Images and Music.
Windows Vista vs. Mac OSX Leopard
You could argue which OS is better till your blue in the face. No one can give you a definite answer. But Mac does seem to have the upper hand as you can’t run Mac OSX on a PC, but you can run Vista on a Mac. It is questionable how much this will affect anything. But for those interested in both a Mac is the perfect option.
Why not to get Vista
Well, I am not going to go into detail about this, if you want more detail just type into a search engine, “top 10 reasons not to get vista” and you should receive a whole load of articles.
But the main reasons seem to be:
– Driver support (I have had no problems)
– Specifications too high (Its been 5 years since XP, technology has advanced)
Time to end this with a Conclusion
I have tried to mention as much as I can, but I am sure I have forgotten some of Vista’s features, there really are too many to remember. Oh wait, some of them are coming to me now. There is also Windows Sidebar, Masses of Tablet PC functionality, System Rating System, Windows Mail, Windows Contacts, Windows Calendar, Improved Date and Time settings, Amazing Wallpapers, 3D Games, Improved Standby & Hibernate, More environmentally friendly power usage, Improved Sound Recorder, 256×256 icons, Hard Drive Usage Colouring, Windows Fax and Scan, Windows Meeting Space, Windows Media Centre and more that I still can’t remember.
So overall I would recommend you, yes you to buy it. But in the end it is your decision, so try before you buy.